Hello everybody! My name is Charmin, and I am a chinchilla. As you might guess from my name, I am very, very soft – some might even say ultra soft! Wild chinchillas live in the Andes Mountains of South America. Unfortunately, my wild brethren have been heavily hunted for their fur coats and are now quite rare in the wild. Domesticated chinchillas (like me) probably came from the species Chinchilla lanigera. There’s another species of chinchilla called Chinchilla chinchilla that has a shorter tail, but they are nearly extinct because of illegal hunting!
I live at My Zoo Animal Hospital as one of the clinic pets. I have a fabric tent that I love sleeping in, an exercise wheel, and a marble tile called a “chin-chiller.” The marble tile provides a cool surface to rest on. I eat Mazuri chinchilla pellets (Oxbow pellets are also good) and timothy hay, and I love getting the occasional raisin as a treat. I get a dust bath a couple times of week, because in the mountains we dust in volcanic ash. Dusting keeps our skin in good condition.
Chinchillas are rodents, but we have a lot of unique features. Here are some interesting facts about chinchillas:
- We have a dense fur coat that is very soft. Since our coat is so thick, we don’t bathe in water since we don’t air dry well. Instead we take a bath in dust made of pumice (basically finely ground volcanic rock).
- Since we are from a mountainous region, we don’t handle heat very well. Our preferred temperature range is 65F to 70F, and we can become seriously ill or die if the temperature gets too hot.
- As rodents, our teeth grow continuously so we need access to appropriate things to chew on such as pumice stones, wood chews (but not conifers or cedar woods), and lots and lots of pet quality hay.
- Unlike many other types of rodents, we give birth to fully haired and open-eyed offspring (called kits). Chinchilla kits are very, very cute!
- We can live 12 to 20 years. So if you’re thinking about getting a chinchilla, remember how long of a commitment that is to take care of one!
If you have a chinchilla or are interested in finding out more about chinchillas, feel free to call and ask the vet questions. The vets at My Zoo Animal Hospital are available for any questions or concerns you may have regarding your pet. Call us at 573-875-3647 (573-875-DOGS).